• Australian Simon Clarke rides into a ninth-place Stage 9 result in Brioude during the 106th Tour de France. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Australian Simon Clarke rides into ninth-place Stage 9 result in Brioude to provide some positive news for his beleaguered American WorldTour team as team leader Rigoberto Uran prepares for the 'GC race' ahead.
Cycling Central

15 Jul 2019 - 8:26 AM  UPDATED 15 Jul 2019 - 8:27 AM

After two straight days of crashes, which resulted in the withdrawal of American Tejay van Garderen and a massive drop in time for Canadian Michael Woods, EF Education First was due for something good to write about in its daily post-race press release from the Tour de France. Simon Clarke at least did his part on Stage 9 to provide just that.

The two-time Vuelta a España stage winner, including last year's Stage 5 in Roquetas de Mar, Spain, joined a 15-rider breakaway on the 170.5-kilometre stage from Saint-Étienne and Brioude.

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“Obviously today could have been a stage for Sagan, Matthews and company in a sprint, and on paper, we could never beat them, so today we went for the breakaway,” said EF Education First sports director Andreas Klier. “The break got quite some time quite quickly. They were 12 minutes up the road at one point, and with Impey, Boasson Hagen, Naesen and Stuyven, it was a high-quality group Clarke joined."

According to Clarke, the break was well organised and cooperative leading into the business end of the stage.

“The cooperation was really good in the group,” Clarke noted. “Everyone knew that we had to wait until later on in the stage to start racing. Up until that point, everyone contributed equally.”

Coming into the final climb, 18-kilometers from the finish, a fresh wave of attacks split the breakaway.

The break eventually gave way to winner _ and Clarke's former Orica team-mate - Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott), who became only the second South African to win a stage at Le Tour.

“Unfortunately I got caught out before the bottom of the last climb and got stuck behind the eight other guys that got away,” said Clarke. “It ended my chances, which was really disappointing. I had the legs for a better result than the one I got.”

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The break eventually gave way to winner _ and Clarke's former Orica team-mate - Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott), who became only the second South African to win a stage at Le Tour. Clarke's current team-mate and EF Education First leader Rigoberto Urán held firm to eighth place on general classification, something the 32-year-old Victorian hopes the Colombian can maintain before a much-needed rest day on Tuesday.

“Nine days down, and Rigo is in a good position,” said Clarke. “We can be happy with that. Hopefully, tomorrow is another uneventful day for Rigo, and then a rest day and things start getting pretty serious for the GC race next week. From then on, it will be critical that Rigo has the whole team behind him.”